Among the disturbing photos of dead bodies in the Kiev suburb of Bucha, where Russian troops are accused of perpetrating atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, Anastasiia Subacheva, a makeup artist from the nearby town of Gostomel, stood out.
In it, she recognized a perfectly manicured hand with red and white nail polish—a hand she’d often seen holding a brush or lipstick, or applying foundation or eyeshadow, during her makeup classes.
Now it lay lifeless on a street, covered with earth.
“When I saw it, it felt like my heart started to break,” Ms Subacheva said on Wednesday during a phone call from the town of Kropyvnytskyi, where she had fled with her family.
Ms. Subacheva, who has been a makeup artist in Bucha for five years, said she knew many women there because she did the makeup for many of them.
The woman pictured, Iryna Filkina, 52, a heating station operator, had contacted Ms. Subacheva in February to inquire about makeup classes. She dreamed of becoming popular and increasing the number of Instagram followers, the makeup artist recalls.
Therefore, she said, Mrs. Filkina wanted her helper to be beautiful and fashionable. She was excited about an upcoming concert by Ukrainian pop diva Olya Polyakova and told them during their classes what she would wear and how she would do her makeup for the event.
“Finally I understood the most important thing: you need to love yourself and live for yourself,” recalls Ms. Subacheva, who told her Ms. Filkina. “Finally I will live the way I want.”
But the war put an end to those dreams.
The daughter of Mrs. Filkina, Olha Shchyruk, who fled Bucha after the war broke out, said she learned on March 6 that her mother had been shot the previous day as she was returning from work on her bicycle.
Still, for about a month, the daughter had hoped that she might still be alive.
“I understand it wasn’t possible because she hasn’t been in touch for a month,” Ms Shchyruk said in a post on Telegram’s social media app on Wednesday. “But a child will always wait for its mother.”
On Friday – Ms Filkina’s birthday – Ms Shchyruk received a video of her mother lying dead on the floor, as well as the photo of her hand.
“Even if there wasn’t a manicure,” she said, “I would have recognized it was my mother.”
She said she was still looking for her mother’s body to bury it.